January 9, 2015
10 Ways Designers Can Gain More Exposure
Design, no matter the medium, is a form of expression and overall creativity. Some may say it’s an addiction while others treat it as a way of life. If you consider yourself a part of any one of these characteristics then you probably produce some sort of design to earn a living.
Creating art can be self-fulfilling but there is also money in it. If you are the best at something you will want it to be known. Doing that is not easy at first but luckily with technology, our generation can appeal to eyes across the world. Some websites are like digital museums of inspiring and original artwork that leaves users like me in awe.
If you are an up and coming designer there is probably a chance you are looking to spread the word about yourself. Producing artwork is only half the work. The other half is marketing yourself so that people come after you for your services. This post will establish some proven methods to help you gain more exposure as a designer. Using these methods you can lead to transforming your passion into a career, all on your own.
Case Studies or Unsolicited Re-Designs
A case study or unsolicited re-design is a sure-fire way to attract an audience. I know this because I’ve done it on a couple of occasions. Doing so got me in touch with the original creators of the design as well as plenty of designers like yourself. The original creators even went as far as contacting me directly. This in return leads to job offers. You can learn more about these projects on my personal site. I’ll save my story for another time...(shameful plug to my own site...noted!)
When you do a case study or redesign you need to make it worthy of the public eye. This means you need to design with your audience in mind. For example, you should keep things like user experience, branding constraints, and accessibility in mind if it’s for web or an app for a mobile device and things like branding guidelines in mind if it’s for print.
Attention to detail gets more views. People appreciate the small things in life. The same expression applies to design. Before diving straight into a redesign you should plan ahead. Try these tasks to start things off:
- Identify the design’s current problems
- Create a roadmap
- Sketch, sketch, sketch some more
- Set a deadline for yourself
- Decide where will you solicit the final artwork
- Make sure you cite and sources to keep from getting contacted by anyone with a fancy suit.
Once your design is final you need to share it to gain notice. I don’t mean just posting a photo on Facebook and only posting it once. You have to make it a full-featured work. Maybe consider writing a blog post about your process from beginning to end. Once you write about it do a small campaign on all your social media networks and your personal website.
I got a lot of hits when my work was featured on a couple of websites. One was Designer News by LayerVault and another was a newer site called Redsgned. Sites like these are flourishing with designers ready to view the next neat piece of work. Reddit is also a great site to post unsolicited redesigns on.
Pick your niche and push it!
Dribbble is show and tell for designers. Originally I think it was a place to show “what it is you are currently designing” now I think it’s more of a place where you post “your most super duper awesome work fully finished to get a ton of shares, views, and likes”. Ok, I went a little overboard there but take a look at most of the work on Dribbble and prove me wrong. All bashing aside, a lot of designers can gain a great following on Dribbble. Posting quality work tends to get a lot of attention.
The most popular content is filtered through the mix making it show up first upon visiting the site. I use Dribbble for inspiration and exploration of color with its neat search by color functionality (Kudos to the Dribbble team for that one!).
A great way to get the most attention is to obviously be original, but also offer free downloads to your work if you have a pro subscription or post a series of designs that belong to a family you are working to create. An example of this might be character designs, custom lettering or UI kits. Everyone loves a freebie.
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to gain exposure is by blogging. Whether you blog on your own website or on another website, people pay attention. If you’re new to blogging bear in mind it could take a while to gain any traction on your new blog. If you are committed enough and provide good content people will find you in due time.
Be sure to set your blog up with good SEO. You could opt to use a content management system like WordPress to make things super easy in this category. Medium is also a new place a lot of creative share thoughts and ideas. No matter the CMS just keep writing and sharing quality content. The more you do and the longer you do the better chance your blog will have to gain higher traffic.
Social media has changed everyone's lives. Most people who have an internet connection or data plan from their smartphone provider have access to anyone they wish to communicate with. There are boundaries in place but for the most part, you can keep in touch with friends or family without ever seeing them. While this is awesome, it is also sad. Simply because gone are the days of “getting together” or “hanging out”. I’ll write more about this dilemma in another post soon.
Since we now have access to pretty much anyone, you might as well make use of the technology to spread your artwork and ideas. Sharing your blog posts as well as art is a way to appeal to more people. The more people who see your work, the more work could potentially come your way. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn come to mind. There are so many more to choose from but I would only focus on the big names personally. Those names typically have the most activity. More activity means more exposure long term.
Since social media has made us more social online and less social in person you should consider countering that independence by attending more conferences. There are new conferences forming every day on just about any subject matter. From comic book conventions to web development camps, these conferences promote networking. Networking with those you don’t know tends to lead to more exposure. More exposure leads to more work. See the pattern?
You can learn a lot by being in a certain setting. New ideas are discussed as well as new breakthroughs awarded. Why not see it first hand by being there yourself?
Offer Free Downloads or Digital Goods
As I stated before, people love freebies. Fonts, UI Kits, Photoshop actions, and more are great ways to gain exposure. If you offer freebies on a recurring basis people will continue to follow you. Some will give back by donating, while others may actually utilize your services which is what you created the free downloads/goods for in the first place.
Getting more work is always great but getting more work and gaining exposure on top of that is awesome!
Write an e-Book
I’ve seen a lot of hype about writing a book for free across the web. It’s usually done to gain subscribers and create your own community. I have yet to take the plunge myself but I can see how this method works.
You essentially offer your knowledge on a topic for free in exchange for a newsletter sign up, social media share, or just goodwill. Doing so leads to more work or contacts for future work as well as spreads your name and your talent across the web.
People feel like they matter more when they give. The truth is everyone matters, but giving will make you feel a sense of accomplishment. If people reward your talent with praise or even seek you for hire then you just sparked a jolt in your career at the same time as gaining great exposure.
I learned a lot of what I know from the web and design community online. Tutorials from the likes of Jefferey Way and Chris Coyier as well as just about anyone of the Tuts+ sites hosted by Envato allowed me to learn the most modern tips and techniques for design and development. Without these tutorials, it’s probably safe to say I wouldn’t be doing what I am today, and I even went to college!
Authoring your own tutorials is a great way to spread your own knowledge on a subject you are passionate about. Sharing this with the community like the authors I spoke of before is what lead them to become so popular. The exposure they received elevated their cause. This all can happen for you as well if you put in the time.
Networking with other designers and developers is a great way to expand your threshold of skills. Doing so helps you become a better communicator when you meet new people. Sharing contact information can benefit you down the road by being referred to for a job or new opportunity. Networking is also a great way to make new friends and try new things. In the creative industry the more people that know of you the better, just don’t be an ass otherwise it could all work against you (this rule applies just about anywhere).
Be Active in Online Communities
I already discussed how blogging can increase your exposure but with almost every blog there is also a comments section. Here you can offer your opinions or knowledge on articles around the web.
Sometimes commenting at the right time plays a keen role in getting the most exposure. If your comment is before a lot of other comments you may get a little more traction. This, of course, depends on the comment itself. You should really only post meaningful knowledge or thoughts that aren’t just summarized in a few words at both the benefit of the author and the community. The comment can be positive or negative again don't be an ass.
Forums and news-feeds are a great way to gain exposure as well. Some larger websites have both a blog and a forum, while others are centered around the idea entirely. One that comes to mind to me is LayerVault’s Designer News or Product Hunt. Sites like these are great for sharing new websites, articles, and almost anything else you find interesting or beneficial to the design and development community. Gaining exposure can be obtained by participating in the sharing of content that is hosted on these news-feeds or forums. The more you author or share the better your chances are of gaining more exposure.
I’m sure there are more methods to gain exposure as a designer out there. I have only covered ten to give you a way to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, in today’s world, your exposure helps set you apart from the rest in your industry. The more trust and faith the community has in you, the more opportunities for success you will likely see. People appreciate what you know if they get to know you more. Once they know you they are more willing to work with you. Other aspects of the creative world like architecture and fine art are whole other realms which I haven’t discussed here. They too can benefit from exposure online but I’ll save that for another time. It’s up to you to put in the hours to achieve a higher status. Do you have what it takes?
Have any other methods to gain exposure as a designer? Let me know in the comments?